New York Times bestselling author Maeve Binchy has captured the hearts of millions with her unforgettable novels. Binchy's graceful storytelling and wise compassion have earned her the devotion of fans worldwideand made her one of the most beloved authors of our time. Now she dazzles us once again with a new novel filled with her signature warmth, humor, and tender insight. A provocative tale of family heartbreak, friendship, and revelation, Tara Road explores every woman's fantasy: escape, into another place, another life. "What if . . ." Binchy asks, and answers in her most astonishing novel to date.
Praise for Tara Road
“Her best work yet . . . Tara Road is like a total immersion in a colorful new world, where the last page comes too soon.”—Seattle Times
“An irresistible tale.”—Elle
“Engrossing.”—Wall Street Journal
“Difficult to put down!”—Denver Post
“One of Binchy's best.”—Kirkus Reviews
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About the Author
Hometown:Dublin, Ireland, and London, England
Date of Birth:May 28, 1940
Place of Birth:Dalkey, a small village outside Dublin, Ireland
Education:Holy Child Convent in Killiney; B.A. in history, University College, Dublin, 1960
Read an Excerpt
Ria's mother had always been very fond of film stars. It was a matter of sadness to her that Clark Gable had died on the day Ria was born. Tyrone Power had died on the day Hilary had been born just two years earlier. But somehow that wasn't as bad. Hilary hadn't seen off the great king of cinema as Ria had. Ria could never see Gone With the Wind without feeling somehow guilty.
She told this to Ken Murray, the first boy who kissed her. She told him in the cinema. Just as he was kissing her, in fact.
"You're very boring," he said, trying to open her blouse.
"I'm not boring," Ria cried with some spirit. "Clark Gable is there on the screen and I've told you something interesting. A coincidence. It's not boring."
Ken Murray was embarrassed, as so much attention had been called to them. People were shushing them and others were laughing. Ken moved away and huddled down in his seat as if he didn't want to be seen with her.
Ria could have kicked herself. She was almost sixteen. Everyone at school liked kissing, or said they did. Now she was starting to do it and she had made such a mess of it. She reached out her hand for him.
"I thought you wanted to look at the film," he muttered.
"I thought you wanted to put your arm around me," Ria said hopefully.
He took out a bag of toffees and ate one. Without even passing her the bag. The romantic bit was over.
Sometimes you could talk to Hilary, Ria had noticed. This wasn't one of those nights.
"Should you not talk when people kiss you?" she asked her sister.
"Jesus, Mary, and Holy St. Joseph," said Hilary, who was getting dressed to go out.
"I just asked," Ria said. "You'd know, with all your experience with fellows."
Hilary looked around nervously in case anyone had heard. "Will you shut upabout my experience with fellows," she hissed. "Mam will hear you and that will be the end of either of us going anywhere ever again."
Their mother had warned them many times that she was not going to stand for any cheap behavior in the family. A widow woman left with two daughters had enough to worry her without thinking that her girls were tramps and would never get a husband. She would die happy if Hilary and Ria had nice respectable men and homes of their own. Nice homes, in a classier part of Dublin, places with a garden even. Nora Johnson had great hopes that they would all be able to move a little upward. Somewhere nicer than the big, sprawling housing estate where they lived now. And the way to find a good man was not by flaunting yourself at every man that came along.
"Sorry, Hilary." Ria looked contrite. "But anyway she didn't hear, she's watching TV."
Their mother did little else during an evening. She was tired, she said, when she got back from the dry cleaners where she worked at the counter. All day on your feet, it was nice to sit down and get transported to another world. Mam wouldn't have heard anything untoward from upstairs about experience with fellows.
Hilary forgave herafter all she needed Ria to help her tonight. Mam had a system that as soon as Hilary got in she was to leave her handbag on the landing floor. That way when Mam got up to go to the bathroom in the night she'd know Hilary was home and would go to sleep happily. Sometimes it was Ria's job to leave the handbag out there at midnight, allowing Hilary to creep in at any hour, having taken only her keys and lipstick in her pocket.
"Who'll do it for me when the time comes?" Ria wondered.
"You won't need it if you're going to be blabbing and yattering on to fellows when they try to kiss you," Hilary said. "You'll not want to stay out late because you'll have nowhere to go."
"I bet I will," Ria said, but she didn't feel as confident as she sounded. There was a stinging behind her eyes.
She was sure she didn't look too bad. Her friends at school said she was very lucky to have all that dark curly hair and blue eyes. She wasn't fat or anything and her spots weren't out of control. But people didn't pick her out; she didn't have any kind of sparkle like other girls in the class did.
Hilary saw her despondent face. "Listen, you're fine, you've got naturally curly hair, that's a plus for a start. And you're small, fellows like that. It will get better. Sixteen is the worst age, no matter what they tell you." Sometimes Hilary could be very nice indeed. Usually on the nights she wanted her handbag left on the landing.
And of course Hilary was right. It did get better. Ria left school and like her elder sister took a secretarial course. There were plenty of fellows, it turned out. Nobody particularly special, but she wasn't in any rush. She would possibly travel the world before she settled down to marry.
"Not too much traveling," her mother warned.
Nora Johnson thought that men might regard travel as fast. Men preferred to marry safer, calmer women. Women who didn't go gallivanting too much. It was only sensible to have advance information about men, Nora Johnson told her daughters. This way you could go armed into the struggle. There was a hint that she may not have been adequately informed herself. The late Mr. Johnson, though he had a bright smile and wore his hat at a rakish angle, was not a good provider. He had not been a believer in life insurance policies. Nora Johnson worked in a dry cleaners and lived in a shabby, run-down housing estate. She did not want the same thing for her daughters when the time came.
"When do you think the time will come?" Ria asked Hilary.
"For what?" Hilary was frowning a lot at her reflection in the mirror. The thing about applying blusher was that you had to get it just right. Too much and you looked consumptive, too little and you looked dirty and as if you hadn't washed your face.
"I mean, when do you think either of us will get married? You know the way Mam's always talking about when the time comes."
"Well I hope it comes to me first, I'm the elder. You're not even to consider doing it ahead of me."
"No, I have nobody in mind. It's just I'd love to be able to look into the future and see where we'll be in two years' time. Wouldn't it be great if we could have a peep."
"Well, go to a fortune-teller then, if you're that anxious."
"They don't know anything." Ria was scornful.
"It depends. If you get the right one they do. A lot of the girls at work found this great one. It would make you shiver the way she knows things."
"You've never been to her?" Ria was astounded.
"Yes, I have actually, just for fun. The others were all going, I didn't want to be the only one disapproving."
"What did she tell you? Don't be mean, go on." Ria's eyes were dancing.
"She said I would marry within two years. . . ."
"Great, can I be the bridesmaid?"
"And that I'd live in a place surrounded by trees and that his name began with an M, and that we'd both have good health all our lives."
"Michael, Matthew, Maurice, Marcello?" Ria rolled them all around to try them out. "How many children?"
"She said no children," Hilary said.
"You don't believe her, do you?"
"Of course I do, what's the point giving up a week's wages if I don't believe her."
"You never paid that!"
"She's good. You know, she has the gift."
"No, she does have a gift. All kinds of high-up people consult her. They wouldn't if she didn't have the power."
"And where did she see all this good health and the fellow called M and no children? In tea leaves?"
"No, on my hand. Look at the little lines under your little finger around the side of your hand. You've got two, I've got none."
"Hilary, don't be ridiculous. Mam has three lines. . . ."
"And remember there was another baby who died, so that makes three, right."
"You are serious! You do believe it."
"You asked so I'm telling you."
"And everyone who is going to have children has those little lines and those who aren't haven't?"
"You have to know how to look." Hilary was defensive.
"You have to know how to charge, it seems." Ria was distressed to see the normally levelheaded Hilary so easily taken in.
"It's not that dear when you consider" Hilary began.
"Ah, Hilary, please. A week's wages to hear that kind of rubbish! Where does she live, in a penthouse?"
"No, a caravan as it happens, on a caravan halting site."
"You're joking me."
"True, she doesn't care about money. It's not a racket or a job, it's a gift."
"So it looks like I can do what I like without getting pregnant." Hilary sounded very confident.
"It might be dangerous to throw out the Pill," said Ria. "I wouldn't rely totally on Madam Fifi or whatever she's called."
"Mrs. Connor," Ria repeated. "Isn't that amazing? Mam used to consult St. Anne or someone when she was young. We thought that was mad enough, now it's Mrs. Connor in the halting site."
"Wait until you need to know something, you'll be along to her like a flash."
It was very hard to know what a job was going to be like until you were in it and then it was too late.